Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer reiterated last week her disappointment in the amount of state aid the city has received since being devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but said that while she’s thought considerably about whether her decision not to endorse Gov. Christopher Christie played a role in the aid payouts, she is refusing to believe politics were involved.
“I’ve been banging the drum about getting more aid for Hoboken since day one, and it’s been a huge disappointment so far given the amount of devastation that we experienced,” she said. “But I can’t believe that this has anything to do with not offering my endorsement.”
Note: Days after the interview and the day after this story went to print, Zimmer appeared on MSNBC giving new information and offering strong words for Christie. See links to our newest coverage and exclusives directly after this story (below), for that information.
In the aftermath of the revelations that a Christie aide was complicit in the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, an act which some believe was political retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee, Zimmer had been telling the media that she was second guessing Hoboken’s lack of aid.
Since the storm, the city has applied for nearly $100 million in aid and received roughly $300,000. Most has gone to shore areas.
“I can’t believe that this had anything to do with not offering my endorsement.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
The mayor said she was frustrated with the latest developments out of Trenton, including accusations that Christie may have misused money meant for Sandy victims when he and his family appeared in a marketing campaign related to Sandy cleanup amidst his reelection campaign last November.
Zimmer noted that the marketing funds that the state typically awards Hoboken, in the region of $50,000 annually, were cut this year.
“It’s understandable in some ways because he was the face of the recovery movement and I can understand how someone might think it’s important that he be in the commercials, but it’s difficult to find the line because its him and his family and it was during the election,” she said.
Much of the controversy regarding the advertisements is focused on the process by which the company producing the ads received its contract. Its bid was nearly $2 million higher than the next cheapest one, and its employees had donated to Republican candidates in the past.
On Thursday, Zimmer said it would be interesting to compare the winning bid with those submitted by other companies.
‘Our best shot’
Since the storm, Zimmer has consistently advocated for Sandy aid in the New York metropolitan area and northern New Jersey, arguing that the solutions many home and business owners on the Jersey Shore have found are not an option for their northern neighbors.
“We cannot raise our homes on pilings in preparation for the next storm,” she said in her inauguration speech two weeks ago.
Due to the lack of funding, the more urbanized plan Zimmer has been hoping to implement has failed to get off the ground. Still, she said this week that she is extremely hopeful that a proposal submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition, designed to protect Hoboken from future Sandy-like storms, will be chosen to receive federal funding this March.
“This is a plan that is designed to protect Hoboken as well as all of its assets, including the PATH station and New Jersey Transit, in addition to our residents and their businesses,” said Zimmer, noting that she will be meeting with representatives from Christie’s office about the plan this week. “It’s literally a win-win for everyone and it’s our best shot at funding which so far we’ve been cut out from.”
Rebuild by Design is an initiative started by the administration of President Barack Obama to federally fund resiliency and infrastructure projects throughout the tri-state area in Sandy’s wake.
Representatives from OMA, the Dutch engineering firm designing the Hoboken plan, will present their ideas to the public at a community meeting on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Multiservice Center, 124 Grand St.
The project for Hoboken is a finalist in the competition, and community support is a major component of the rubric for the winning design.
For more information on the contest and Hoboken’s design, read an article that appeared in the Reporter last month at http://bit.ly/1eKELIi.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com